ORLANDO, Fla. –
Hurricane Matthew continues to trek toward Central Florida as a Category 4 storm, with a projected arrival around 8 a.m. near Cape Canaveral.
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As of 8 p.m. Thursday, Matthew was located near the Bahamas and moving northwest at 13 mph. The massive storm has sustained winds of 130 mph.
President Barack Obama declared an emergency in the state of Florida earlier Thursday and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts to Hurricane Matthew.
Several hundred people are dead in Haiti after Matthew passed over the island country, Reuters News reported.
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Obama's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by the hurricane. The directive applies to more than two dozen counties in Florida.
"We're going to have power outages, we're going to have a lot of power outages. And it's not going to come back on in one day," Gov. Rick Scott said.
Erik Sandoval is live in Cocoa Beach as the first string of rain comes from Hurricane Matthew.Posted by News 6 WKMG / ClickOrlando on Thursday, October 6, 2016
Emergency declarations are designed to help provide emergency services to protect lives and property, and to lessen the threat of a catastrophe.
Some models show a direct hit to the Kennedy Space Center area of Brevard County with catastrophic winds.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are warning that large waves pushed by Hurricane Matthew could threaten lives and property hours before the Category 4 storm's eye nears the shore.
Rhome said parts of Florida, such as the Cape Canaveral area or communities along the St. Johns River, could see waters rise up to 9 feet above ground -- a level well overhead for most adults. Rhome says such levels are life-threatening because they are accompanied by "waves and currents and floating debris."
Scott said that the federal government has approved the state's request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for food, water and tarps.
"...I am asking the President for additional generators and pumps to help with power outages and flooding once the storm hits," Scott said. "Following the most recent weather briefing from the National Hurricane Center, we can expect to have a lot of flooding, especially in Northeast Florida, and we will need additional pumping equipment from the federal government.”
Scott urged residents under evacuations at a news conference Thursday morning to leave the coast.
"This storm will kill you," Scott said. "It's time to get out."
Officials say some 3,000 people have already checked into shelters in Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew's approach.
"The worst of the winds will be late tonight and early tomorrow," said News 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges, adding that they will be hurricane-force winds of 130 -145 mph.
Storm surge flooding of 5 to 7 feet is expected along the barrier islands of Volusia and Brevard counties, with 3 to 5 feet of constant waves expected over Martin and Saint Lucie counties. Flood advisories were issued across Central Florida counties, along with hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings.
"This system will bring hurricane force-winds, storm surge and heavy rain into coastal counties of Central Florida, possibly producing widespread extensive to devastating wind impacts," News 6 meteorologist Madeline Evans said.
Heavy rain will increase in coverage and frequency across Central Florida on Thursday and Friday. Widespread rainfall totals of 5 to 8 inches are expected, with locally higher amounts along the coast.
"There's also the possibility of isolated to scattered tornadoes is in the forecast for the next two days," Evans said.
The hurricane has killed more than 100 people in several Caribbean countries.
A hurricane warning was expanded to include the rest of Florida's east coast, north of Daytona Beach.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami also issued a hurricane watch for north of the Savannah River on the Georgia-South Carolina state line to Edisto Beach, South Carolina. The entire Georgia coast was already under a hurricane watch.
A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours. A hurricane watch means the conditions are possible in the area within 48 hours.
Most of the counties along Florida's Atlantic coast have issued mandatory evacuations along the eastern most areas.
The National Hurricane Center isn't saying that Matthew will make landfall in Florida, just that the center of the storm will get "very near" the Atlantic Coast, likely as a Category 4 hurricane.
Obama warned Americans in the storm's path to pay attention and take any evacuation orders seriously. He said if the core of the storm strikes Florida, it could have a "devastating effect."
NASA, SpaceX take precautions
At the Kennedy Space Center, NASA and the private company SpaceX are taking precautions to protect their capsules and rockets.
SpaceX has been counting on Kennedy's historic Launch Complex 39A to get its rockets flying again, hopefully in November.
SpaceX's pad at neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was damaged Sept. 1 when a Falcon rocket exploded during prelaunch testing.
NASA, meanwhile, has secured a new Orion capsule currently in development in a secure Kennedy building designed to withstand sustained wind of 114 mph and gusts of 125 mph. The capsule will be used to launch astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center is closed Thursday and Friday, with a 116-person ride-out crew on duty to help keep things safe.
The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station also was closed to nonessential personnel.
Florida braces for 'direct hit'
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned 1.5 million residents they had 24 hours to get ready, or better yet, get going.
The voluntary and mandatory evacuations included the Miami area and extended to St. Augustine.
Scott has also activated 1,500 National Guard members. He has repeatedly warned that a direct hit by Matthew could lead to "massive destruction" on a level unseen since Hurricane Andrew devastated the Miami area in 1992.
Many residents found long gas lines Wednesday. However, Scott said the state is not experiencing any gas supply or distribution shortages.
"We have heard of some individual stations (being) short, but in no area of the state are we short of fuel," the governor said, adding that the state has placed fuel in some areas and sends it to stations that need more.
State offices will be closed Thursday and Friday in 26 counties, Scott said.
Florida residents cleared many grocery store shelves ahead of the storm.
In Jupiter, resident Randy Jordan said people were pushing and shoving their way through the local Home Depot to buy supplies ranging from batteries to flashlights.
Residents still had a sense of humor. Olivia A. Cole posted a photo on Twitter of an empty grocery shelf, save for eight cans of a soup typically enjoyed in another part of the country.
"South Florida wants to survive #HurricaneMatthew. But we'd rather die than eat clam chowder," Cole joked.
Haiti death toll rises
The death toll from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti is now at 261, according to officials.
Before hitting Haiti, the storm was blamed for four deaths in the Dominican Republic, one in Colombia and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to the Associated Press.
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The agency tweeted Thursday that in addition to the deaths, three people were missing, 27 injured, and more than 21,000 people were in 152 shelters. The statement did not give any details about the deaths in a brief statement.
Authorities and aid workers were still trying to reach remote areas of the peninsula to get a full accounting of the damage.
The updated toll brings the total number of deaths to at least 29 in the Caribbean from Hurricane Matthew. In addition to the 23 in Haiti, there were 4 in the Dominican Republic, 1 in Colombia, and one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Central Florida forecast
"We will reach a high of 86 degrees on Thursday, with a 90 percent chance of rain," Evans said. "The heaviest of the rain bands should start moving in by 2 p.m. We begin to see torrential rain and hurricane force-winds about five hours later."
The sever weather conditions will continue overnight and into Friday.
Wet, wild and weird: Some answers about Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew is wet, wild and weird. Meteorologists say its path has been harder to pin down than that of other storms, but Matthew is definitely dangerous and may possibly stick around to bedevil the Southeast coast for a week or so.
Here's are some questions and answers about Matthew :
Q: How bad and unusual is this?
A: If Matthew keeps its current status as a major hurricane -- with winds of 110 mph or more as a Category 3 or higher -- it will be the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in October 2005. Wilma's winds at landfall were 120 mph; earlier that year, Katrina hit with winds of 125 mph.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, Matthew's maximum sustained winds were 115 mph, down a tad from 5 p.m.
That could make Matthew the first major U.S. hurricane of the social media era. Twitter and iPhones didn't exist when Wilma hit, and Facebook was in its infancy.
Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused more than $50 billion in damage, but even if it hit the coast as a hurricane, it would have qualified only as a Category 1, with peak winds of 85 mph. Storm surge, large size and location were the big problems. It was also a combination of three different types of storm systems so it isn't a good comparison.
The last hurricane with a similar strength and track to threaten the U.S. East Coast was 1999's Hurricane Floyd , which caused about $7 billion in damage in the Carolinas, says Jeff Masters, a former hurricane hunter meteorologist and meteorology director of Weather Underground.
"There's no question that it's going to have major impacts," he says. "Is it going to be devastating or just major-damaging?"
That depends: A few degrees difference in the hard-to-forecast track as it hugs the coast could make the difference between a $1 billion storm and a $10 billion one, he said.
MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel says, "it could give a very extensive part of the Southeast coastline a pounding, and if it's moving very slowly, a lot of rain."
Q: Does it matter if it makes landfall or stays just offshore?
A: In some ways, the worst case scenario would be if the storm's eye stays just offshore, enabling it to feed over water and avoid weakening while its strongest hurricane winds keep smacking the beaches, says University of Miami tropical meteorology researcher Brian McNoldy, who just finished his own storm preparations. In that case, "you're raking hundreds of miles of coastline."
Don't think of it as just an eye -- this storm is already so large, and likely to expand even more, that it will have widespread impacts, Masters says.
Technically a storm doesn't "make landfall " until its eye reaches land, but it can still be considered a "direct hit" if it is close enough to shore have maximum winds over land, even if the eye stays just over water.
Q: So which is the big worry with Matthew: Wind, rain or storm surge?
A: While storm surge and rain can be a problem, McNoldy and Masters worry most about Matthew's winds.
"It's going to do a lot of wrecking," Masters says. "Matthew will get big and bad."
Q: Is Matthew harder to forecast than other storms, and if so, why?
A: Emanuel and Masters say this is harder to forecast. Some computer models have changed long-term tracks from up the East Coast into New England a couple days ago, to now possibly lingering around the Southeast.
But McNoldy points out the turn due north between Haiti and Cuba was well forecast, and only the long-term forecasts gyrate greatly, which is more understandable. As for short-term track forecasts, the changes are only more noticeable because they are so close to land that 50 to 75 miles one way or another makes a huge difference.
Still, new Tropical Storm Nicole is likely affecting the path of Matthew. And the Bermuda high pressure system and low pressure trough coming from the west over the United States aren't strong enough to block Matthew or push it seaward, the meteorologists say.
With weak steering systems, some computer models have Matthew sticking around the U.S. coast for another week or so. Chuckling -- because meteorologists have a dark sense of humor about storms -- both Masters and McNoldy acknowledge that one trusted computer model even sees a possible loop-de-loop that curls Matthew back around to South Florida for a second time.
Q: What's to blame: El Nino, La Nina, global warming? Or do hurricanes just happen?
A: Mostly hurricanes simply happen. However, warm water fuels storms, and the water in the Caribbean, where Matthew has been growing, is 1.8 to 2.7 degrees warmer than its long-term average, the meteorologists said. Masters says that makes climate change a possible factor, although McNoldy and Emanuel disagree.
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Maximum potential intensity -- a key measurement of heat energy in the ocean -- has increased by about 15 mph in the past 35 years in the areas of the Atlantic where tropical storms spawn. And the maximum potential intensity is especially high now just east of Palm Beach, Florida, Emanuel says. But he says that's because of reductions in sulfur particle air pollution and its cooling effects, not climate change.
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